Purification of neuronal inclusions of patients with Huntington's disease reveals a broad range of N-terminal fragments of expanded huntingtin and insoluble polymers

J Neurochem. 2005 Oct;95(1):125-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2005.03348.x.


Huntington's disease resulting from huntingtin containing an expanded polyglutamine is associated with aggregates largely confined to neuronal inclusions, and with neuronal death. Inclusions are thought to originate from discrete N-terminal fragments of expanded huntingtin produced by specific endopeptidases. We have now purified the neuronal inclusions of Huntington's disease brain. When incubated in concentrated formic acid, purified inclusions release a polymer, an oligomer and a broad range of N-terminal fragments of expanded huntingtin. The fragments and the polymeric forms are linked to each other by non-covalent bonds as they are both released by formic acid, whereas the polymeric forms themselves are presumably stabilized by covalent bonds, as they are resistant to formic acid. We also demonstrate the presence in affected areas of the brain but not in unaffected areas of a broad range of soluble N-terminal fragments of expanded huntingtin not yet associated with the inclusions and which are likely to be the precursors of the inclusions. Fragmentation of expanded huntingtin in Huntington's disease must result from the operation of multiple proteolytic activities with little specificity and not from that of a specific endopeptidase; subsequent aggregation of the fragments by covalent and non-covalent bonds leads to the formation of the inclusions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Formates / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism*
  • Inclusion Bodies / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / chemistry
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry
  • Nuclear Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Peptide Fragments / isolation & purification
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Polymers / isolation & purification
  • Polymers / metabolism*
  • Solubility
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Formates
  • HTT protein, human
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Polymers
  • formic acid